Theater review: ‘The Legacy of Amelia Aldean’ at The Magnetic Theatre

GHOST WITH THE MOST: Carin Metzger, Miles Rice, Maximilian Koger and Shane Dinan perform in the ghost story 'The Legacy of Amelia Aldean.' Photo by Cheyenne Dancy Photography

We’ve all heard our fair share of ghost stories, but The Magnetic Theatre has a new one, making its world premiere. The Legacy of Amelia Aldean, written by Laurie Jones, is onstage through Sunday, Oct. 20.

Legend has it that the writer Amelia Aldean (played by Carin Metzger) was found dead on the floorboards of her Charleston, S.C., entranceway in 1916.  It was only after her death that she gained a major following. The tragedy still affects her fans to this day, as some parts of her unfinished works remain lost.

Yearning for inspiration, two young writers — James (Shane Dinan) and Neil (Maximilian Koger) — decide to throw caution to the wind and move into the mysterious apartment. It also doesn’t hurt that the couple’s daring transition may spice things up in their relationship.

The somber James has suffered from major writer’s block after his first and only hit novel. Neil, however, has attained repeated success and fancies himself a bit of a paranormal fanatic. When the pair find small pieces of paper with scribbles stuffed in Amelia’s old books, strange things start happening. James begins seeing the ghosts of yesterday moving about the apartment, playing out the final days of Amelia’s life. Once he makes contact with her, she, too, is startled. For who actually is the ghost? And could such a connection change Amelia’s fate?

We lose ourselves completely in this extremely intriguing production because of Metzger’s stirring performance. She absolutely nails the tormented character with grace and vigor. Rather than play up the fact that Amelia is a ghost, she makes us see her as a real person — which makes the play’s story-within-a-story all the more alarming. Visually, she is stunning in etched makeup and a gothic wardrobe by costume design newcomer Kimbo States.

While collectively the players are fun, inevitably there are standouts. Jason Williams as the awkward policeman seems to enigmatically float between time eras. What could be confusing is actually rather thought provoking. Dinan, in particular, grounds the production in real time and keeps any stereotypes at bay. There is great truth within his interpretation.

Miles Rice is remarkably cast in the pivotal supporting role of Amelia’s lover Mark. The source of the play’s horror lies within his overbearing character. He doesn’t muddy the challenge and, to his credit, the performance is nuanced. Together, Metzger’s and Rice’s chemistry rumbles passionately, and there’s a hilarious, mouth-dropping sex scene. The humor works because the actors don’t overtly aim to interfere with the story’s seriousness. Horror and comedy have never been easy genres to mix.

Jones has a well-written script on her hands. The interplay with the ghost and present-day writer is ingenious and clutches our interest. Referenced elements such as famed authors or a women’s suffrage protest feel nicely subtle rather than blaring. However, it would have been interesting to feel hints of attraction between Amelia and her friend Katy (Stephanie Nusbaum). This would have mirrored the couple staying in the apartment. Additionally, while this production is scary at times, it could go further. If the silly ending bit were axed, the play would leave us chillingly caught in a vicious cycle.

Director Katie Jones creatively rouses our attention and has ensured that The Legacy of Amelia Aldean will live on. While it’s near impossible to see all the productions our wonderfully artistic town has to offer, this one is essential.

WHAT: The Legacy of Amelia Aldean
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Oct. 20. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. $23

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About Kai Elijah Hamilton
Kai Elijah Hamilton was born and raised in Western North Carolina. A poet, screenwriter and playwright, he is also a published film and theater critic. Hamilton is a creative individual with a wide range of talents and interests. He is an Award Winning Actor (Tom in "The Glass Menagerie") and Director ("A Raisin In The Sun"). He previously served as Artistic Director at Hendersonville Little Theatre and has a B.A. in theater and film from Western Carolina University. In 2016, Hamilton's play "The Sleepwalker" won a spot in the first annual Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival by NYS3. His play "Blackberry Winter" was a finalist in the elite Strawberry One-Act Festival in NYC winning Best Short Film/Video Diary. Hamilton is also the author of the full-length southern-gothic play "Dry Weather Wind" which has been called "Important. Relevant to the issues in today's time, and beautifully written..."

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